June 2, 2017 § Leave a comment
Jesus, the Christ, and I—Part 6
Soon after my return to Bible study for my book on Christian earth stewardship, while at Pendle Hill in the winter and spring terms of 1991, a time almost exactly bookended by the first Gulf War, I had an extraordinary transcendental experience of Jesus.
Pendle Hill has a meeting for worship every morning and I attended faithfully. Those were some of the most gathered meetings for worship I’ve ever known—there’s something about that room. And I suspect that it really helped that Bill and Fran Taber were there then, as were Doug Gwyn, Chris Ravndal, and a number of other deep Friends, both staff and students.
One morning, I was feeling very centered when suddenly I became acutely aware of a woman sitting diagonally across from the meeting room from me. My focus just zoomed in on her. After a few short moments, I had an eidetic image of Jesus standing behind her, a figure in the classic mold—white robes, long hair, placid face—but apparitional—vivid and well-defined, but also transparent. I could see through him to the people sitting behind him. Very much like the painting The Presence in the Midst.
Then that woman stood up and spoke.
I was startled, electrified. I don’t remember the message, but I never forgot the feeling of prescience and connection. The psychic dimension of the experience was undeniable, and I accepted the vision as a legitimate aspect of the experience, a manifestation of the Spirit, maybe even an actual visitation of Jesus himself.
The same thing has happened one other time, though not so vividly. In fact, I no longer remember the details of this second instance.
Since then I have pondered these experiences, but delicately and experimentally—I am careful not to overcome the mystery and the sense of presence I have felt with too much analysis. (In this, I feel a certain kinship with Mary, Jesus’s mother, pondering her own experience of visitation.) I tend to identify these manifestations as Jesus, but as I think of them, I ascribe them to Christ, that is, to the non-historical Spirit in which a meeting for worship is gathered.
Also since that first experience, I have felt led to envision Jesus standing behind anyone who offers vocal ministry in meeting for worship as a form of supporting prayer. A few years ago, I took this prayer a step farther: I began asking Christ to come into our midst, as in the painting. Once, in a rare for me instance in which I felt my vocal ministry was pulled out of me without any control on my part, I found myself on my knees asking Christ out loud to come among us. Other times, sometimes, I feel something . . . .
This combination of occasional manifestation, my pondering, and the practice of praying Christ’s presence has given rise to a certain kind of faith. For decades that faith has remained rather vague and inarticulate. I just have felt sure that something was happening that deserved my respect, even though the encouraging experiences are few and far between. But they have occurred often enough to keep me in my practice of faith, hope, and tentative expectation.